Operation Hurricane I

This was an Allied concentrated bomber attack on German targets in the industrial Ruhr (14/15 October 1944).

'Hurricane I' was a joint undertaking by RAF Bomber Command under the command of Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris, and the US VIII Bomber Command of Lieutenant General James H. Doolittle’s 8th AAF to ‘demonstrate to the enemy in Germany generally the overwhelming superiority of the Allied Air Forces in this theatre…the intention is to apply within the shortest practical period the maximum effort of the RAF’s Bomber Command and the USAAF’s VIII Bomber Command against objectives in the densely populated Ruhr.’

On 14 October ‘Hurricane I’ was started by a daylight operation by Bomber Command, which had launched no heavy bombers on operations during the previous 48 hours and was thus able to despatch 1,013 bombers (519 Avro Lancaster, 474 Handley Page Halifax and 20 de Havilland Mosquito aircraft), under RAF fighter escort, to bomb the German city of Duisburg. Some 957 bombers dropped 3,517.5 tons of high explosive and 807 tons of incendiaries on the city for a loss of 13 Lancaster and one Halifax aircraft.

The 8th AAF despatched 1,251 heavy bombers escorted by 749 fighters to bomb Köln, losing five bombers and one fighter during the attack.

On the night of 14/15 October, 1,005 RAF bombers (498 Lancaster, 468 Halifax and 39 Mosquito aircraft) returned to Duisburg in two waves spaced about two hours apart, and dropped a further 3,976 tons of high explosive and 492 tons of incendiaries for the loss of five Lancaster and two Halifax aircraft.

By this time Bomber Command was able not only to launch ‘thousand-bomber’ raids, but also to fly secondary raids of considerable size at the same time. Bomber Command thus possessed the strength to dispatch more than 2,000 sorties to Duisburg in less than 24 hours, with sufficient numbers of aircraft still available for Air Vice Marshal the Hon. R. A. Cochrane’s No. 5 Group to attack Braunschweig with 233 Lancaster and seven Mosquito bombers. The various diversions and fighter support operations laid on by Bomber Command were so successful that only one Lancaster was lost. Bomber Command had attempted to destroy Braunschweig on four occasions previously in 1944 and No. 5 Group finally achieved the object on the night of 14/15 October.

This was Braunschweig’s worst raid of the war and the old centre of the city was completely destroyed. Reliable statistics on damage are sparse: instead of using the normal procedure, which quoted the number of buildings destroyed, the officials now reported the area of destruction. Some 561 people are believed to have died but there were near miraculous escapes when, some four hours after the raid, firemen reached the first of eight large public shelters which had been cut off below the sea of fire in the centre of the town. An estimated 23,000 people were in these shelters, and all but about 200 of them were rescued.

Among the relief which arrived to help the 80,000 people bombed out of their homes was the Hilfzug Bayern, a train from Bavaria equipped with technical help and kitchens for mass-feeding arrangements. Braunschweig was not again the recipient of a major attack by Bomber Command.

Even as these major raids were taking place, Bomber Command had the resources to undertake a number of support and minor operations. Some 141 training aircraft flew a diversionary sweep to Heligoland; nuisance raids were flown by Mosquito light bombers against Hamburg (20), Berlin (16), Mannheim (eight) and Düsseldorf (two); 132 aircraft of Air Vice Marshal E. B. Addison’s No. 100 Group flew electronic countermeasures, ‘Serrate’ (homing on German night-fighter emissions) and intruder flights; and eight aircraft flew resistance-support operations. One Halifax was lost on the diversionary sweep and one Mosquito was lost during the Berlin raid.

Over the 24-hour period, therefore the RAF had flown 2,589 sorties dropping a total of approximately 9,890 tons of ordnance (its greatest 24-hour total of the war) for the loss of 24 aircraft, which was 0.9% of deployed force. More than 8,850 tons of bombs fell on Duisburg in less than 24 hours.